Last updated: 22 March, 2013

Egyptian Bedouin kidnap Israeli and Belgian tourists

Armed Bedouin tribesmen in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula on Friday kidnapped two tourists, an Israeli man and a Norwegian woman, as they travelled between two beach resorts, police said.

Six gunmen intercepted the tourists’ car and forced them into their truck, the officials said. The pair had been travelling between the resort of Taba, on the border with Israel, and Dahab further south.

Norway’s foreign ministry confirmed one of its citizens was abducted but gave no details.

A relative of the man seized identified him as Israeli Arab, Amir Omar Hassan, and said he had contacted his family to tell them he had been abducted and was being treated well.

“He said he was kidnapped,” said Hassan’s brother-in-law, Kamal Koufini, a resident of Nazareth in northern Israel.

Hassan said “he was safe and in good health, and the kidnappers were treating him well,” Koufini added.

The kidnappers want relatives who are jailed in Egypt released, Koufini said.

A spate of such hostage takings, which usually last for no longer than 48 hours, broke out in the restive Sinai after an uprising forced out president Hosni Mubarak in early 2011 and battered his security services.

The kidnappers are normally Bedouin who want to trade the hostages for jailed fellow tribesmen.

In Israel, police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP: “We received unconfirmed information that a Norwegian tourist and an Arab-Israeli man resident in Eilat, originally from the Nazareth region, were kidnapped” in the Sinai.

A spokesman for Nazareth’s mayor told AFP the mayor spoke with an Egyptian embassy official who said his government was doing all it could to secure the hostages’ release.

Israel has repeatedly warned its tourists of the threat of attack in the Sinai, where Islamist militants have waged a low-level insurgency against the military and police as well as attacks on Israel.

But Friday’s kidnapping did not appear politically motivated, with Bedouin sources in the area saying the hostages had been seized solely as bargaining chips.

Bedouin kidnapped a British couple on March 7, only to release them within hours after talks with security officials. The Britons had been abducted from a bank in a town as they headed towards the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.